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Publishers WeeklyStarred Review.
Though most people are only familiar with microbes that cause disease (germs, etc.), those "felonious" microbes actually constitute a tiny percent of all microbes, and just a single chapter in this fascinating survey of single-celled organisms and their role in shaping life on Earth, from University of California Professor Emeritus of Microbiology Ingraham. Among other processes, Ingraham explains how vaccines have been developed, frequently with the aid of other microbes; the carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur cycles which make life possible; and how microbes give us cheese, wine, and other foodstuffs (though some, like xanthan gum, readers not to know about). Ingraham also discusses recently-discovered microbes inhabiting extreme environments (hot, cold, salty, etc.) that promise to tell us much about the evolution of life on Earth and what life on other planets might look like. Ingraham's entertaining, breezy style makes even difficult topics accessible, and every chapter contains intriguing anecdotes about microbes in history (did the CIA try to poison Castro's cigars with botulinum toxin?). Highly readable, engrossing, and endlessly informative, this is a standout example of science writing for general audiences.
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